Sharing economy is hot. Looking around, one can't help feeling just about everything can be shared. But then, you can't help asking yourself, "where does it end?"
Really, so cars can be shared, houses can be shared, stools can be shared, bikes can be shared... so what can not be? Practically nothing. I think the generalization roots in the word share as itself really doesn't rule out all the confusions out there — are bike sharing really "sharing"? or are they just a leasing in disguise? what makes you think one way or the other? what is sharing? I told Noah to share his toys, but to think of it, he didn't necessarily own the toys (for example, when he was in preschool), so the sharing was really an intention, a spiritual openness with benefiting others in mind. Since he is a kid, sharing toys is encouraged; but what if he is an adult and I'm encouraging him to share something that doesn't even belong to him at the first place? What's the message then? What does it even mean? It feels, bad, doesn't it? After all, I certainly don't want any two Pol just come along and decide to share my thing that neither of them owns. I'll be like, what the heck?
So I tried to think of a narrower and clearer definition for sharing:
- you own the resource that you are sharing
- benefits created are not determined by increase of resource amount, but by better utilization (interchangeably, efficiency) of existing resource.
I like the 2nd point. It's easier to use a bit math here:
value = unit value * qty. So to increase the
over all value, you
unit value, thus a unit's efficiency , or
think sharing is all about the
unit value (utilize an idle
resource). What we are seeing of the explosive increase of
just a side effect when more ppl want to participate, but
qty is not sharing.
The owner prospective, however, bothers me. On one hand it feels
just right that you can/should only share what you own — your
vacant room, your bike, your tools... but on the other hand, can't you
just share anything? I mean, there just isn't anything you own you can
not give it a
sharing spin — stuff, time, service, what about prostitutes? If it is the oldest
profession, isn't it also the oldest sharing economy!? If so,
why we are condemning them but praising these so called innovations?
We should not. I think sharing implies a sense of motivated willingness and pride, that first of all I like this thing — I'm taking proud of my lovely house, thus wanting to have you experience that (after all, who wants to just share crappy side of his/her stuff). I would almost argue that you should like it to the point you don't want to share, thus making sharing such an emotional experience, that the challenge to overcome unwillingness and to convince youself doing it is the true ingredient that makes sharing valuable and noble. Without this emotional pride that you invest in it, this whole process, being called sharing or not, is nothing but another a emotionless, number-matching business transaction.
So here it is, a number 3:
- you like what you are sharing
Putting this lens on, you will now see how bullshit all these China-invented sharing hoax really are.
wiki and quotes
I got curious and read about sharing economy, boy, wasn't I impressed! What a wonderful summary of everything I am feeling about this topic but failed to express them well! There are a few slips I think they hit nails on the head, which I'll be quoting here:
The Harvard Business Review argues that "sharing economy" is a misnomer, and that the correct word for this activity is "access economy". The authors say, "When "sharing" is market-mediated—when a company is an intermediary between consumers who don't know each other—it is no longer sharing at all. Rather, consumers are paying to access someone else's goods or services." The article goes on to show that companies (such as Uber) who understand this, and whose marketing highlights the financial benefits to participants, are successful, while companies (such as Lyft) whose marketing highlights the social benefits of the service are less successful.
not a gift economy
Salon writes that "the sharing economy ... [is] not the Internet 'gift economy' as originally conceived, a utopia in which we all benefit from our voluntary contributions. It's something quite different—the relentless co-optation of the gift economy by market capitalism. The sharing economy, as practiced by Silicon Valley, is a betrayal of the gift economy. The potlatch has been paved over, and replaced with a digital shopping mall."
driven by job loss
New York Magazine wrote that the sharing economy has succeeded in large part because the real economy has been struggling. Specifically, in the magazine's view, the sharing economy succeeds because of a depressed labor market, in which "lots of people are trying to fill holes in their income by monetizing their stuff and their labor in creative ways", and that in many cases, people join the sharing economy because they've recently lost a full-time job, including a few cases where the pricing structure of the sharing economy may have made their old jobs less profitable (e.g. full-time taxi drivers who may have switched to Lyft or Uber). The magazine writes that "In almost every case, what compels people to open up their homes and cars to complete strangers is money, not trust. ... Tools that help people trust in the kindness of strangers might be pushing hesitant sharing-economy participants over the threshold to adoption. But what's getting them to the threshold in the first place is a damaged economy, and harmful public policy that has forced millions of people to look to odd jobs for sustenance."
low labor cost
Andrew Leonard, Evgeny Morozov, Bernard Marszalek, Dean Baker, and Andrew Keen criticized the for-profit sector of the sharing economy, writing that sharing economy businesses "extract" profits from their given sector by "successfully [making] an end run around the existing costs of doing business" - taxes, regulations, and insurance. Similarly, In the context of online freelancing marketplaces, there have been worries that the sharing economy could result in a 'race to the bottom' in terms or wages and benefits: as millions of new workers from low-income countries come online.
no magic in trust
the sharing economy "doesn't build trust" because where it builds new connections, it often "replicates old patterns of privileged access for some, and denial for others". William Alden wrote that "The so-called sharing economy is supposed to offer a new kind of capitalism, one where regular folks, enabled by efficient online platforms, can turn their fallow assets into cash machines ... But the reality is that these markets also tend to attract a class of well-heeled professional operators, who outperform the amateurs—just like the rest of the economy".
And finally, an article on HBR.
— by Feng Xia